I am a researcher by heart and I love getting deep into the study of all thing that interest me. Due to which I am die hard follower off channels like National Geographic, Discovery and History TV . Today I was watching National Geographic’s brand new show – Mega Kitchens and This article is inspired by one of there showing INDIA’S MEGA KITCHEN – SHIRDI.
I have always been fascinated by these huge kitchens, I where a few chefs or cooks churn out food for thousands of people. The sheer magnitude of the operations is enough to boggle your mind.
The temple’s kitchen runs on Shirdi Sai Baba philosophy that annadaana (donating food) is the highest form of daana (charity). Every day the kitchen feeds some 30,000-40,000 devotees, with the numbers going up to 70,000-80,000 on festival days.
What I found most fascinating about this kitchen is the fact that it almost exclusively runs on solar power. 73 massive solar panel dishes on the temple’s rooftop harness the sun’s power to heat hundreds of litres of water, which gets converted to steam. The steam is piped down to the kitchens where huge cauldrons of vegetables and pulses bubble away, and mechanised roti-makers turn out 30,000 rotis in 5 hours flat.
There are two other spiritual centres, Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Brahma Kumari Spiritual Trust in Rajasthan’s Mount Abu, where solar systems cook prasadam for devotees.
The 73 parabolic antennas mounted atop the roof of the kitchen complex of Sri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan in Shirdi constitute the world’s largest solar steam system that cooks food for 20,000 devotees daily. Though the antennas have been in place since January 8, the entire solar cooking system was inaugurated by Union Minister for New and Renewable Energy Farooq Abdullah.
Previously, 500 metric tons of LPG was used for cooking food for the pilgrims. With the Central government recently hiking the price of cooking gas and curtailing access to conventional fuel, the Sansthan took a decision to install a solar cooking project at the cost of Rs 1.33 crores.
The benefit has been felt immediately. Today, the Sansthan claims that it has reduced the use of LPG by 74 metric tons and saving over Rs 29 lakhs annually.
The kitchen also makes the famous boondi ladoos, which are considered a blessed sacrament from the temple, with more than 100,000 ladoos being distributed every day!
The first Indian institution to employ the solar cooking system was the Brahma Kumari Spiritual Trust at Mount Abu where the mechanics were employed in 1997 to cook food for 1,000 persons a day. Two years later, the system’s capacity was increased to cater to 10,000 people.